Demons, Deliverance and Discernment
by Fr. Mike Driscoll
Catholic Answers Press
This is an excellent and discerning review of an important subject. The author is a Catholic priest and he has surely got the balance right: demons exist and possession is rare. The spiritual means we have to overcome the devil are prayer and the sacraments.
The author rightly describes deliverance ministries as the "wild west of demon fighting. Anyone can claim expertise in demonology and deliverance" and this has certainly led to scandals. The Catholic Church is very wise: only priests may carry out the ministry of exorcism and this only under obedience. The author is also rightly critical of certain types of healing services "that are rampant with emotionalism. Mentally fragile people do not benefit from spiritual activities that deliberately inflame their emotions."
It is so important not to confuse demonic possession with mental illness. The section on mental disorders is extremely helpful. Schizophrenia is first described and then discussed. The author's pastoral experience is that people with psychosis ask for sacred objects and blessings. In contrast, the possessed have an aversion to sacred objects.
Dissociative Identity Disorder (Multiple Personality Disorder) is also discussed. The standard theory is that it may be caused by childhood trauma. Painful thoughts are linked to imaginary friends and during times of stress the imaginary friends become real for the affected person. There may be facial contortions and the affected person may speak in different voices. Little wonder that the condition can be confused with demonic possession.
The author clearly describes the different terms: oppression, obsession and possession. There are helpful chapters on the Rite of exorcism, what happens during exorcism and when to start and when to stop the exorcism. The work is very practical: the author tells us how to deal with cursed items and how to tell when the devil is lying.
This work is helpful for the clergy, for health professionals and the interested reader.
REVIEWED BY DR PRAVIN THEVATHASAN